Silent Knight – Masterplan (Album Review)

Silent Knight - Masterplan

Silent Knight is a relatively young band, only having been around since 2009. They’re also a bit of an anomaly in the Australian metal spectrum, being just about the only band from their home state of WA, and one of comparatively few in the Australian scene playing straight-ahead power metal free of any outside influence. Despite being relative newcomers, they’ve already started to make waves, with their 2011 sampler receiving some very strong praise and playing a slew of gigs all over the country. Finally, in February this year, the band unleashed their debut album ‘Masterplan’ for the world to hear.

Frankly, it’s great to hear such a straightforward and hard-hitting power metal platter such as this, from a band that are so devoted to the style. The band list the likes of Gamma Ray, Helloween, Iron Saviour and Hammerfall among their influences, and certainly, there is a strong Euro power metal influence here, particularly when the band pick up the pace and rush into the faster tempos. This influence is especially highlighted in the drums, which are constantly going flat out with heavy double bass work, just like you’d hear from Jorg Michael. While the faster tracks are all strong, it’s when the band slows down and give their tracks room to breathe and develop that this album really hits its stride. As strong as the speed metal numbers on display are, tracks like Prophets of War, Evil Is Thy Name and Dare To Dream are the true highlights of this album.

The performances of the band are a little loose in places, but honestly, I feel this adds to the overall appeal of the album, giving the whole album a more organic feel. Adding to that is the production. The album certainly doesn’t hold a big-budget production job, but that style of production really isn’t necessary on a release like this. The whole album sounds very organic as if there was very little processing done to the instruments during the recordings. It almost sounds like an album that could’ve come out of the mid to late ’80s, which is exactly how the album should sound. The guitar work is the real highlight here. Whether they be playing chunky power chords, galloping riffs, gorgeous acoustic passages, duelling melodic passages or the solos, which range from blistering fast to draw out and majestic, the guitar duo of Cam Nicholas and Stu McGill is fantastic throughout this release. The only complaint I could make here is that the bass guitar tends to get lost in the mix a bit. While it’s not a huge knock against the album, I would have loved for the bass lines to stand out a bit more, as it could have added a lot to the album.

I have heard some complaints regarding the vocals of Zoran Cunjak. While I’m sure there are plenty of metalheads who will think the vocals here were outstanding, and they wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that, I would have to agree that there are some issues with the vocals. Zoran possesses a very strong mid-ranged voice, and his performance on this album is consistently strong from a technical standpoint, but at times, particularly when he moves to higher registers, where it sounds as if his vocals are at odds with the instrumentation at work here, rather than melding with the guitars, bass and drums to make a complete package. There are also one or two minor instances where it sounds as if he might be straining a bit to hit some higher notes. His vocal style certainly seems to work a lot better with the mid-paced numbers, which allow him to reel in his performances a bit, than the speed metal tracks which require the extra vocal acrobatics.

As far as the tracklist goes, this album just goes from strength to strength. The Curse Of The Black Rose, and Evil Is Thy Name are the only real speed metal tracks here, both being excellent, pummelling tracks, placed in the perfect sections of the album, with COTBR having a great verse riff that will stick in your head, sure to get your fists pumping in anticipation for the metal monsters yet to follow, and EBTN giving the listener a great speedy number, and a nice change of pace which serves to really heighten the effects of the album closers even more. Masterplan features a fantastic interplay between blistering fast refrains and crushing slower riffs making up the meat and potatoes of the song, a technique used to excellent effect here, capped off with some excellent solos.

Prophets of War is just a brilliant track, with some beautiful acoustic verse riffs giving way to a heavy chorus filled with Maiden-Esque galloping guitars. Silent Apparitions also features a heavy maiden vibe, with extensive galloping riffs and some excellent guitar melodies. When The Angel Flies is probably among the weaker tracks here. The song starts slowly with a dull grooving riff that goes nowhere. This lasts for half the track’s duration, tricking the listener into a false sense of security. Then out of nowhere the tempo picks write up and the track evolves into a racing power metal frenzy. A good, but not great track really saved by its closing half. Album close Dare To Dream is the true highlight here, with the acoustics coming back to even greater effect than before. The best vocal performance of the whole album, a dazzling assortment of powerful, dynamic riffs and some of the best soloing of the album make this my favourite track here and the perfect album closer.

While it’s not a perfect release, there’s a lot to like about Silent Knight’s debut. The talent is definitely there, the band already seem to have a good ear for writing some great metal, and although I was initially worried to see all the longer tracks taking up the back end of the album, after a few spins I find the tracklisting here to be absolutely perfect. The band already seem to have found the sound they want to go after, and with a little more refinement these guys absolutely have the potential to be something truly special. The band really excel at writing longer, more epic material, and hopefully, we’ll see plenty of music in that style on the follow-up. A great debut from these young Perth lads, and one that would make a great addition to any metalhead’s collection.

Release Year: 2013
Label: self-released
Category: Album
Country: Australia

Reviewed by Matt S.